Welcome to mastering.co.uk and the wonderful world of audio and online mastering.
We are a new venture that aims to bring you all the latest news, tips and advice from the audio mastering world. We hope to bring interviews and advice from some of the biggest names in the business as well as gear and software reviews from the pros.
What is mastering?
Mastering is most commonly understood to be to the process of taking a mix of a song or album and being the final step in preparation for its distribution to the final medium. That could be CD, vinyl or more than likely online streaming these days.Traditionally it would mean taking your recorded mix masters to a mastering studio. This still happens and many well respected mastering engineers encourage clients to attend, however there are now many options for online mastering these days.It can be a very easy process to upload your files to an online mastering service and get sent the relevant masters as files.
Why master your audio ?
There are several reasons this last step can make a huge difference to the final product. Good mastering can unify the sound of an album across various tracks that have possibly been mixed and produced by different engineers and in different studios. A good mastering engineer will maintain consistency across an album, and prepare the right formats for distribution.
The ultimate point of this step is to help correct any mix balance issues and get the best out of any sonic characteristics, taking a master mix and putting the final polishing process on it. This can involve adjusting levels and general “sweetening” of the mix. It can take a good sounding mix and make it better with the right approach and a good engineer. The mastering tool kit can include using broad equalization and applying compression and or limiting, A good mastering engineer will consider how the individual tracks of a release work together when played one after another in an album sequence. Is there a consistent sound? Are the levels matched? Does the album have a common “character” and play back evenly so that the listener doesn’t have to adjust the volume? This process should consider how the individual elements sound in sequence and in relation to each other. This doesn’t mean that you simply make one eq decision and use it on all your tracks so that they have a consistent sound. The point is to reconcile the differences between tracks while maintaining and even enhancing the sonic footprint of each of them.This usually means different settings for different tracks.
The final step usually involves preparing the song or sequence of songs for download, manufacturing and/or duplication/replication. This step varies depending on the intended delivery format. In the case of a CD, it can mean converting to 16 bit/44.1 kHz audio through resampling of a hi resolution master and/or dithering, and setting track indexes, track gaps, PQ codes, and other CD-specific markings. For web-centered distribution such as itunes and other stores, you might need to adjust the levels to prepare for conversion to AAC, MP3 or hi-resolution files and include the required metadata.